By Christine Lavelle
UNIVERSITIES in Scotland are cashing in China’s “crucial” student population to bolster the country’s educational sector.
Education Secretary Mike Russell said China has become a key strategy in attracting more students to study in Scotland and encouraging more researching funding from the Far East for Scottish universities.
He said it could open up an “unlimited market” for teaching English to Chinese students.
He said: “Children at almost every level are keen to learn English, and their parents are keen to learn English to a high standard, and Scotland is well placed to deliver as much as it wants to do.”
At a week-long trade mission in Beijing, Mr Russell met the Chinese Minister for Education to discuss partnerships in teacher education, as well as building on existing projects such as joint PhD research programmes.
The Education Secretary also met with the Educational Commission in Tianjin to talk over proposals for Scotland to provide more higher and vocational education for the city with a population of 12 million.
Scotland already has strong ties with the area as last week Mr Russell presented the 10,000th HND awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
He said: “The possibility of expansion into other cities and with other delivery partners is really quite enormous.
“Students coming from China is a very, very big market which we have tapped into, but not enough yet.”
The 5,000 Chinese students enrolled in Scottish institutions makes up the most of any non-EU community, and unlike Scottish students they pay fees to attend the universities.
International students in Scotland added £419 million to the country’s economy last year and national research collaborations contributed around £68 million.
The importance of these income streams became even more apparent in last week’s spending review when a cut of 40 per cent to university teaching budgets was announced.
The number of Chinese students attending Glasgow University has increased by 40 per cent in the past three years.
Professor Anton Muscatelli, the university’s principal, said: “China is absolutely crucial.
“It is one of our most important markets and is likely to grow.
“Scotland is at a key competitive advantage.
“We have world-class institutions.”